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Circling the Second Drain - 80%

TheStormIRide, September 23rd, 2018

Russia’s Blackdeath have been soldiering on since 1998 (1995 if you count their previous namesakes of Draugwath and Black Draugwath). One of the longest running, still-active black metal bands in the Russian scene, the band has amassed eight full length albums and an armload of split appearances and limited EP releases. Chronicles of Hellish Circles II, released in the summer of 2018 through Azermedoth Records, is the second compilation, as one might guess, bringing tracks from the band’s more recent works to the realms of larger accessibility.

The tracks included were all recorded in 2010 (tracks one through five) and 2014 (tracks 6 through 9). Both sessions were previously released as Jesus Wept (in 2011) and Satanas – Retro – Vade (in 2014). While the material was already out there, it’s nice to be able to get hands on these tracks, as both releases were limited to 500 copies or less. The first five tracks were new to the Jesus Wept EP, which includes a pretty fantastic cover of Burzum’s “Jesus’ Tod”. Tracks seven and eight are re-recorded versions of early songs and the last track is a cover of a Laibach track, which, quite strangely, uses lyrics from a different Laibach track.

Those passingly familiar with Blackdeath’s output over the last decade (since Polar Maya joined on drums) shouldn’t find many surprises here. The band’s strangely cerebral take on traditional black metal is front and center with near-nonstop swaths of nimble tremolo riffing and pitch black aesthetics. The re-recorded tracks show how much more control Abysslooker has over riffs now, with everything tightly woven into a highly melodic, yet frenzied sound. Colonel Para Bellum’s vocals are steeped in depravity, not content to focus solely on raspy screams (though those are here too). The maniacal deliver is multi-faceted, running amok with highly accented growls, pained screams, and a strange tortuous clean delivery that works really well. The rhythm section deserves a special mention, as Polar Maya mixes militant cadences with bursts of frenetic rhythms and the occasional blast; steering clear from typical blast and destroy percussion that plagues the genre.

Fans of the band’s recent output, namely 2013’s Phobos, should find that this recent compilation has plenty to dig into. Rangy, yet highly melodic tremolo riffing, frenetic yet unconventional percussion, and a multi-faceted vocal delivery keep things moving along nicely, making the compilations thirty-six minute run time feel about half that. The only track that doesn’t quite fit is the Laibach cover, with its slower, stomping delivery, but admittedly I’m not a big fan of Laibach. That aside, Chronicles of Hellish Circles II is a great chunk of Blackdeath’s history; especially if you don’t own the original EPs, and with the music presented, it’s clear why Blackdeath is one of Russia’s strongest black metal exports.